In a shocking revelation, the Wall Street Journal has reported that Russian intelligence agencies used fake new websites to undermine public confidence in Pfizer and other US-based Covid vaccines.

Citing US officials, the report said on Sunday that four online publications linked to Russian intelligence agencies have been spreading misleading information about Covid-19 vaccines.

“The websites played up the vaccines’ risk of side effects, questioned their efficacy, and said the US had rushed the Pfizer vaccine through the approval process, among other false or misleading claims,” the report mentioned.

The websites have been identified as New Eastern Outlook, Oriental Review, News Front and Rebel Inside.

The US officials, including from State Department’s Global Engagement Centre, said that these false stories are often picked up and circulated by international media.

“We can say these outlets are directly linked to Russian intelligence services. They’re all foreign-owned, based outside of the United States. They vary a lot in their reach, their tone, their audience, but they’re all part of the Russian propaganda and disinformation ecosystem,” the Global Engagement Center official was quoted as saying.

“Russian intelligence services bear direct responsibility for using these four platforms to spread propaganda and lies”.

A spokesperson for the Kremlin denied the allegations to the WSJ.

Russia announced in November last year that its Sputnik V vaccine had efficacy of 90 per cent.

Critics, however, critics said the clinical trials of the vaccine on patients were limited.

The Lancet reported last month that a large-scale testing found Sputnik V was safe, and had a 91 per cent efficacy rate.

There has been a surge in vaccine-related scams in recent months and a new report said last week that the number of web domains featuring the word “vaccine” in their title has now significantly increased, and the danger includes credential theft, credit card fraud, malware installation and more.

The team at cyber security firm Check Point Research (CPR) said that since the beginning of November 2020, it has documented 7,056 such new domains, of which 294 were deemed potentially dangerous.

From July till October, the team documented only 1,773 new domains, of which 228 were deemed potentially dangerous.

–IANS

na/rs